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Bush Seeks to Pressure Syria over Lebanon, Iraq


President Bush says he is trying to bring more international pressure on Syria to stop blocking emerging democracies in the Middle East and to secure its border with Iraq.

President Bush says Syria must change its behavior when it comes to blocking democratic reforms in Lebanon and allowing terrorists to cross the border into Iraq.

Following meetings with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Mr. Bush said Syria can do a lot more to prevent the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.

"These people are coming from Syria into Iraq and killing a lot innocent people. They are trying to kill our folks as well," said Mr. Bush. The president says he will discuss the issue of Syria with world leaders meeting in New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly.

Bush administration officials say the president is running out of patience with Syria's continuing role in Iraqi violence and wants Damascus to get serious about stopping terrorists from crossing the border.

If Syria does not, Mr. Bush says President Bashar al-Assad will find himself increasingly isolated. "The Syrian leader must understand that we take his lack of action seriously, and the government is going to become more and more isolated as a result of two things,” added Mr. Bush. “One, not being cooperative with the Iraqi government in terms of securing Iraq, and two, not being fully transparent about what they did in Lebanon."

The president did not specify what Syrian actions in Lebanon he was talking about, but Damascus has been widely implicated in the February assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

U.S. and French calls for an investigation into that killing, along with anti-Syrian demonstrations in Lebanon led Damascus to withdraw Syrian security forces from the country this year.

While President Bush holds Syria responsible for some of the continuing violence in Iraq by failing to secure its border, he says that violence will not weaken America's resolve to help Iraq establish a democratic government.

He told President Talabani that their common enemies know the only way to impose what he calls their hateful vision, is to drive American troops out of the country before Iraq has democratic institutions in place.

"They believe we will retreat in the face of violence, so they are committing acts of staggering brutality, murdering Iraqi children receiving candy or hospital workers treating the wounded. We have no doubt that our enemies will continue to kill, yet we also know they cannot achieve their aims unless we lose our resolve. Today, Mr. President, I pledge that we will not waiver," said Mr. Bush.

President Talabani says he hopes his army will be able to take over more responsibility from U.S. troops by the end of the year, raising the prospect that some of those troops might then be able to return home.

President Bush has long maintained that there will be no timetable for U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq because he says that would embolden the insurgency.

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